'Aidan's Path to Braille': Teacher incorporates unique learning

'Aidan's Path to Braille': Teacher incorporates unique learning method for blind student

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A nine-year-old Frenship student is beating the odds with the help of his teacher, Sherry Airhart, who has been a part of his life for seven years.  Aidan Noyola proves that hard work pays off. 

"He is totally blind and does not see any light, or shadows," she said.

Aidan has Sept-optic Dysplasia.

"It is characterized by three things: Hypoplasia or underdevelopment of the optic nerve," she said. "It also affects the midline of the brain."  

It also includes Pituitary Hypoplasia, which involves a mutation in the growth hormone.  As he got older, it was time for Aidan to start learning braille.

"I knew that he was very smart," she said. "I knew that there was a reason that he wasn't catching on to the braille. I knew that he just wasn't able to do it, and there were other things involved."

However, Airhart didn't give up. 

"It was just a matter of finding that way to reach him, and for him to have access to print," she said. "I prayed about it a lot. I asked for guidance. I asked for direction, ideas."

Prayer lead to the answer of textures. Aidan's path to understanding braille starts with a keyboard.

"I thought why don't you texture the letters of his name on this keyboard, and hook it up," she said. "And maybe we would be able to at least type his name. so I textured the 'A' and we was immediately able to do the A."

More letters were added, and before long Aidan was reading using the whole keyboard. It had the entire alphabet.

"Well I have lots of textures just because of working with students with visual impairments," she said.

From the keyboard, she started creating words with the textures. It included from anything you could find in an arts and crafts section, beans, buttons, and branches. 

"He was so strong phonetically," Airhart said. "He had a good understanding of language that he picked up on the reading quickly. So from there, we started incorporating it into his classroom, and his learning."

Aidan's improvement is tremendous. One reason he said he loves the textures is they're soft. It doesn't stop with spelling and stories.  The textures can even help add and subtract.

"I do think it opened up his world," Airhart said. "I think it is has allowed him to be a part of his classroom. He does everything that the other kids do."

Airhart is also incorporating the braille cell. She has braille below the textured words, this allows him to practice and get comfortable using it.

"It is not to replace braille," Airhart said. "We call it Aidan's Path to Braille. We call it APB. It is his path to braille. When we present it at other places that is what we talk about that we are trying not to replace anything. It is a pathway. It is his pathway."

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